Quite often I make big, fat statements just to test the air. A week or two later, I scamper back with words that are mostly along the lines of, “Heck, I said that?!” Well, this time I’m saying that Mumbai band Black is one of the best things going in rock’n’roll from this side of the Carpathians since dyslexic band names.
There’s a no-nonsense ‘No, we don’t wear rexin jackets’ grungy sound to the band’s debut album, Choking On A Dream. The music fills up the CD like sarin gas and doesn’t suffer from an ailment many desi bands with the best of attitudes and intentions suffer from: musicianitis. By that I mean Black sounds like a full-fledged rock’n’roll band rather than a collective of one talented guitarist, one frettish bassist, one thumper behind the drum kit and one santoor-player behind the bushes. Instead Black is a thick gruel made up of man-in-front-of-the-mike Shawn Pereira, bassist Roop Thomas, guitarman Reinhardt Dias and drummer Shishir ‘Tao’ Thakur. Ok, introductions over. Now to the music.
The scribbling of guitars and the car crash of drums announce the high octane, valves-bursting ‘Rift’. Shawn gushes from the throat without a leak, Reinhardt’s guitar solo making an organic in and out of the song instead of being played because some dude who wants a long solo so that his girlfriend can identify him. It’s a straight-in-the-face rock song that in the chorus line “This rift, this rift, this rift....” lifts off like a mutant helium balloon.
The wakka-wakka guitar pedals make us crawl into a bass fest into the funked-up hard rocker, ‘Alone’. This is classic old-fashioned verse-chorus-verse. I munch my knuckles on hearing the excessive — and oh-so old-hat — bass-slapping from Roop, whose caterpillar fingers otherwise form the skeleton to the album. The driving force of this track is the powerful, heavy duty guitar riff that demands respect. The wah-wahs are also put to good use.
‘Sold’ chops up the itchy riff of Nirvana’s ‘Rape me’ and serves it as a quiet ‘Wave those lighters’ song. Shawn sounds like Roger Daltrey. But it’s in the hard-assed version of the same song towards the end of the album where
I hear a full-blown Seattle-style moon-howler.
The bass-slaps return in ‘Newspaper boy’, thankfully covered in a treacle of jingle-jangle that’s on the lazy side. A sparse Red Hot Chili Pepper-ish guitar chords bring us to ‘Devil’s sympathy’. Reinhardt shows off his fretwork as I patiently wait for the song. I get strings and a lullaby instead. Two minutes 28 seconds later the whole song is played again, this time with crash and burn and bang and feeling. This near-5-minute song should have been way shorter.
The raspy bits come out in ‘Field of thought’, a wall of sound’n’voice that would make Eddie Vedder happily do his old ‘eye-rolling’ thing. Fingers on fret scratches take us to ‘Ambush’, a calm, emo song that comes alive in the middle as if a Viking’s just stepped out of a cake. ‘Somewhere in the night’ twinkle-toes about. It should have been sent back to the box where it came from. The last track, an instrumental is downright silly and a filler.
Despite it’s weaknesses, Choking In A Dream is a worthwhile album from a band whose strength is sounding ‘live’. Play it loud, and skip the boring tracks.